John Fogerty – the legendary voice behind Creedence Clearwater Revival’s monumental hits “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and “Fortunate Son,” plus solo hits “Centerfield” and “The Old Man Down the Road” – is still going strong at age 68.
And unlike many singers who have been at it for more than 40 years, he’s not content to rest on his laurels. Fogerty hits the Hard Rock Live near Hollywood on Tuesday, Oct. 29 in support of his latest – and highest debuting – album, “Wrote a Song For Everyone,” which features many of today’s current artists adding new twists to selections from his iconic songbook, and which scored a rare 5-star review from Rolling Stone.
Fogerty talked to Miami.com about the tour and new album, how he keeps that wonderfully gruff voice in shape, and whether he ever sneaks in the joke line “There’s a bathroom on the right” when singing “Bad Moon Rising” live.
With so much material to choose from, how do you decide on a set list?
Over the years, especially the last 10 to 15, I’ve really been playing the hits, concentrating on things that were singles. And that really started because I had that long time when I was away from touring, so I knew when I first came back in 1997 I guess it was, I always thought there’d be a lot of people waiting to hear “Proud Mary” or “Bad Moon,” and if they hadn’t seen me, maybe they’d waited almost 20 years. And at this point now, I’m actually getting into the idea of taking some of the deep tracks on albums and getting into a bit more extended music with the band, kind of like I did in the first place in 1968 and ’69.
Is each night pretty much the same, or do you like to mix it up?
Well, I like to mix it up, and it’s gonna be even more so from now on. At this point I think most people know what my songs are and have some idea of my history and where I came from and all that. And so I think as long as you do a fair amount of things that are recognizable, people also enjoy seeing an artist go for it, you know? Musically explore. I think there’s room for that sort of thing, and I’m really gonna enjoy going in that direction.
What inspired you to do “Wrote a Song For Everyone”?
Actually, it was an idea my wife had. We were sitting on the couch one day watching TV with the kids, and suddenly she said, “Why don’t you get a bunch of the people that you love, and sing your songs?” And I looked at her and what I saw in my mind was “Bob Seger, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert” – I just saw a big group of people singing “Proud Mary” or whatever, and thought, “Wow, that would be fun.” Immediately, I thought, man, I would sure love to sit down with a couple guys with guitars, like me and Keith Urban, you know, and just kind of pick and sing. And so that idea really sort of gelled right away.
It’s your highest debuting album ever. Are you surprised by that?
Well, yeah, I don’t really sit around thinking about those kind of things. I know that way back in the day, Creedence was a great big band with several No. 1 albums. Never had a No. 1 single – in fact, Creedence is a trivia question of some sort because of that. I know that most people think of my time with Creedence as the remarkably successful time of my recording career, and I’m very grateful that that happened. But with “Wrote a Song,” I’m really more knocked out by the artistic achievement. I think it’s really, really a fine piece of work for an artist, and I’m very proud of that.
For the tour, is there a chance that some of the people you collaborated with on the album will join you onstage?
I’m sure hoping that happens. I mean, you must realize that I can’t book a 30-city tour and expect Brad Paisley to come with me every night for one song. So what I started doing over the summer was jumping up onstage with some of the artists from my record that are on tour and joining them for a song. I had done it with the Foo Fighters on [singer] Dave [Grohl]’s tour – we were playing “Fortunate Son.” Recently I joined Brad Paisley – we did a few songs, including our version of “Hot Rod Heart.” And the other night I was up with Kid Rock, and we did “Born on the Bayou.” So I’m really hoping that on my tour, some of these artists, if they’re anywhere remotely near where I am, they’ll join me for a song or two.
You were born and raised in California. So where did all the “bayou” and “swamp” stuff come from?
[Laughs]. Well, the music I was hearing when I was growing up, especially the very early stuff, was very much Southern. And when I went to the very first induction ceremony of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I looked at all the pictures. They inducted 10 artists that night, and I remember sitting at my table thinking that the only guy I’m not sure of was Sam Cooke. Everybody else I know came from the South. And I went home and looked it up and Sam Cooke was from Georgia. So OK, I rest my case – everybody was from the South. Meaning, there was an awful lot of powerful music in the early days of rock and roll and R&B coming from the South. And even the movies – there was one called “Swamp Fever,” I think. I loved that movie. I would sort of gravitate to things that were Southern because I loved the South.And with that in mind, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just said, “Maybe it’s reincarnation.” Maybe at some point in my eternal life I was a Southern person. I just seem to fit so naturally there. And I’ll hear somebody say something or paint a picture with words in obviously a Southern way, like “Grin like a mule eatin’ briar!” And I’ll go, “Huh?!? Oh, that’s cool.”
Your vocal style is not easy on the throat. How do you keep your voice in shape?
Well, you know I used to have a bit of trouble now and then on certain tours. My voice would get sort of edgy and other times it would hurt. And I’m not talking about like if you’re sick with a bad cold or the flu. Just everything being OK except that your voice is raw. And I finally found a guy a few years ago who helped me with diet. Diet has a lot to do with it – making better choices and not upsetting your stomach. So that’s really been a lifesaver for me. It isn’t so much how you scream or whatever – it’s more to do with what you’re eating and how your body is reacting. Now, I do a lot of running – I may not look like much of a physical specimen, and I’m not a guy that goes to the gym and works on my abs. I’d rather be trying to get better on the guitar. But I do believe in being in shape, and being a skinny guy. So I have a lot of stamina with that kind of training.
You’re 68 and still going strong. How long do you see yourself doing this – touring, creating music, the whole thing?
Probably till the day I die. I just think that – with the grace of God, not becoming really ill with all the things that human beings can get – I really enjoy it, and my mind is very much burning with desire to be good.
As a joke, have you ever sung the lyric “There’s a bathroom on the right”?
Nowadays, I will do that more often than the straight way. If I sense that there are people up in the front, in the first 10 rows or so, who are really into it and seem to know all the words, then I’ll do that. I’ll even point to the right [laughs]. But yeah, I’m very aware of people misunderstanding the lyrics – it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.